Why do I have to go to Mass every Sunday?
It’s eerie, in a way, to be sitting out on my porch with the smell of freshly mown grass and the sight of flowering trees and look across at an empty church parking lot as we make our way through the coronavirus pandemic. I’ll be honest, it feels a little weird to be writing about why we have to go to Mass every Sunday when the faithful are not able to come to Mass! I’ll still answer the question, but I wanted to be authentic about the approach and wonder if the context may even allow for a deeper, or at least unique, perspective.
Most of us know that under normal circumstances (i.e., not world pandemics), Catholics are obligated to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation. For an excellent explanation and reflection on this, I’d encourage you to read the one-page article, “The necessity of Sunday Mass” by Father Chris House from the Feb. 9, 2020 edition of Catholic Times. You can find it here: ct.dio.org/item/4922-the-necessity-of-sunday-mass.html.
My answer to the question, “Why do I have to go to Mass every Sunday?” We go because the Eucharist is real! It’s as simple as that. If the Eucharist is just a nice, beautiful symbol, then I agree with Flannery O’Connor, who said, “To hell with it!” If the Eucharist is truly what we believe it is, the source and summit of our Catholic faith; the Body, Blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ; then it’s worth not only an hour on Sunday, it’s worth everything.
I know the Eucharist is real from experience. I’ve seen Jesus transform people through the Eucharist, and I myself came to know Jesus through it. If you’re doubtful or struggling with belief, ask your priest how the Eucharist has impacted him and how it could impact your life.
This year, because of the coronavirus, the faithful were asked to enter into a eucharistic fast when public Masses had to be canceled out of safety. (Private Masses by priests have continued, offering each Mass for the people and for an end to the pandemic.) In that fast, my prayer is that the longing and gratitude for what the Eucharist truly is grows in each one of us. My hope is that in the future, we can speak from a place of encounter with the God who loves us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Why do I have to go to Mass every Sunday? That’s where I receive Jesus in the Eucharist! How could I not go?
Father Rob Johnson is parochial vicar of St. Boniface Parish in Edwardsville and chaplain of the Newman Center at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville.